Aldo Leopold Wilderness: Ensuring a Legacy While Protecting "a Ruggedly Beautiful Country" (Report)

Aldo Leopold Wilderness: Ensuring a Legacy While Protecting "a Ruggedly Beautiful Country" (Report) Summary

Aldo Leopold Wilderness is a special place, perhaps sacred as well as inspirational, which protects "a ruggedly beautiful country" in southwestern New Mexico. This congressionally designated wilderness of 202,016 acres is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is also responsible for administering the Gila National Forest within which Aldo Leopold Wilderness is situated. The administrative histories of Aldo Leopold Wilderness and Gila National Forest are interwoven as a result of Department of Agriculture regulations and by public law. Administratively, Aldo Leopold Wilderness began as the eastern portion of the Gila Wilderness Area (1924), then became the Black Range Primitive Area (1933), and finally emerged as Aldo Leopold Wilderness (1980). This long, arduous, and occasionally confusing administrative evolution explains the efforts to provide enhanced federal protection for a remarkable landscape and honor the legacy of Aldo Leopold, a wilderness philosopher and advocate. To understand Aldo Leopold Wilderness requires an understanding of the man for whom the wilderness would serve as a legacy. Iowan Rand Aldo Leopold, a Yale Forestry School graduate, arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory, on 2 July 1909 to await his initial assignment as a forest assistant in Apache National Forest, Arizona Territory. It was in Apache National Forest where Leopold's encounter with the she-wolf occurred, which he recalled so vividly in A Sand County Almanac many years later. Leopold had wounded the wolf fatally, and its slow death left an indelible imprint upon his mind. Regrettably, he had to destroy the wolf in order to learn to appreciate its role in nature. He did not realize the wolf's significance until he lost it. A month later he became crew chief in charge of an inventory group in the Blue Range, followed by duties as deputy supervisor of Carson National Forest in May 1911, where he learned about grazing allotments, ranchers' interests, and his own role in enforcing USFS policies.

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